Sochi Report, Alaska edition: Olympic dreamers in Anchorage, more heartache curlers

Beth Bragg

THE FUTURE IS HERE

Want to catch a sneak preview of, say, the 2022 Winter Olympics ski competition?

Head to the Karl Eid Ski Jumps.

Anchorage is hosting this year's Junior National championships for ski jumping and nordic combined. Jumping practices are Monday, Thursday and Friday, and competition run Saturday through Feb. 25 at the Karl Eid jumps and Kincaid Park.

"These are the kids who will some day jump for the United States," said Karen Compton, co-chair of the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage's jumping program. "It's pretty exciting."

The field of 53 jumpers, ages 10 to 17, includes eight girls -- worth noting given the Sochi Games marked the Olympic debut of women's ski jumping.

January's weird, warm weather left all three Karl Eid jumps bare of snow, forcing an Olympian-like effort to keep the national championships in Anchorage.

Nine dump trucks of snow were harvested from unsalted parking lots around town, tossed into a snowblower and blown into snowmachine sleds that were hoisted by monorail up the 65-meter jump, Compton said. There, volunteers spread and smoothed the snow onto the bare wood.

Volunteers also had to pump out water from a lake that formed where the landing hill had been. Then they filled in the hole with snow to recreate the landing hill.

"It was back-breaking work," Compton said. "Everything had to be just right. It's the national championships."

HEARTACHE FOR CURLERS

A heart-wrenching Olympics continued Sunday for Jessica Schultz and her U.S. women's curling teammates.

The Americans took the undefeated Canadians into overtime before losing 7-6 at the Ice Cube Curling Center in Sochi.

The United States, fourth in the world a year ago, dropped to 1-7 with one game remaining in the round-robin tournament. Canada is 8-0 and one victory away from becoming the first women's team to go undefeated in round-robin play at the Olympics.

"It just goes to show we're not giving up. We finally got our mojo back, but unfortunately it was just a little too late," said U.S. team member Debbie McCormick. "We will hold our heads high and go out there and just try our best. We want to enjoy the experience."

The loss was the second straight heartbreaker for Schultz, a two-time Olympian from Anchorage, and her teammates. On Saturday, they lost to Sweden 7-6 in a game that decided by a measure in the 10th end.

"We know we're not going to the playoffs, and that we're at the bottom of the barrel, but we still have pride," McCormick said. "We want to be good representatives for our country and for USA Curling."

GOOD RACE FOR BJORNSEN

Anchorage skier Erik Bjornsen helped the United States move up from the back of the pack to an 11th-place finish in the men's 4x10-kilometer cross-country relay race Sunday in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

Scramble-leg skier Andy Newell of Vermont bonked on the final hill and tagged off to Bjornsen in 15th place. Bjornsen passed two skiers in his classic leg to lift the Americans in 13th place, and the team went on to finish 11th.

Bjornsen, 22, said the race marked an improvement over his 15-K classic race on Friday. He placed 38th in that event.

"I felt great," Bjornsen said. "I just tried to ski smooth and strong. The last classic race I maybe went out a little too hard, so I was feeling great and I was able to just pop some of those hills, but also trying to be realistic and stay smooth so I could ski a smart race. I think I did. I was able to pick off a couple spots so I was happy with it."

WHO'S ON DECK?

All times Alaska

Monday

Alpine skiing -- Women's giant slalom, first run, 10 p.m. (Anna Berecz)

Biathlon -- Women's 12.5-K mass start, 6 a.m. (Sara Studebaker, Lanny Barnes)

Tuesday

Alpine skiing -- Women's giant slalom, second run, 1:30 a.m. (Anna Berecz)

Wednesday

Figure skating --Women's short program, 6 a.m. (Ashley Wagner)

Cross country -- Women's classic team sprint, 12:15 a.m. semifinals; 2:45 a.m. finals (TBD)

Cross country -- Men's classic team sprint, 1:06 a.m. semifinals, 3:15 a.m. finals (TBD)

RUSSIAN 101

Put this in the we've-come-a-long-way-baby file: At the first Winter Olympics in 1924, there were nine sports -- bobsled, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, hockey, nordic combined, ski jumping, speedskating and military patrol, an event that was the precursor to biathlon.

Women were allowed to compete in figure skating, and nothing else.

Written and compiled by Daily News sports editor Beth Bragg, with contributions from wire services and Nat Herz, who is in Sochi for fasterskier.com and the Daily News.

 


By BETH BRAGG
bbragg@adn.com